Easter Sunday is coming up and is traditionally a day we all tuck into a spot of spring lamb. It’s seasonal and hearty enough to fit with the unpredictable weather that can roar like a lion or bleat gently like a lamb.
This year, seeking inspiration we turned to our friends at Ballymaloe who’ve come up with two incredible lamb dishes to take centre stage on your Easter table.
The Contemporary Option:
Tagine of Lamb with Preserved Lemon
This dish is perfect for a big clan gathering, quantities are easily adapted to feed more and it can made well in advance.
1.35kg boned shoulder of lamb
1 scant dsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
A generous pinch saffron
50g unsalted butter
2 onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
175g (6ozs) raisins, soaked in water and drained
2 tbsp honey
3 tbsp chopped coriander
1 tbsp oil
50g flaked almonds
1 preserved lemon (half if large) optional
fresh coriander leaves
Trim the lamb, discarding excess fat. Cut into 1½ inch (4cm) cubes. Mix cinnamon, ginger, pepper and saffron with 4 tablespoons water. Toss the lamb in this mixture. If you have time, leave to marinade for up to 24 hours.
Melt the butter in a wide pan. Add the lamb, onions, garlic, salt and enough water to come half way up the meat. Bring up to the boil, cover and reduce heat to a gentle simmer. Cook for about an hour, turning the lamb occasionally until the meat is meltingly tender. Add the drained raisins, honey and half the coriander. Continue simmering for a further 30 minutes or so, uncovered until the sauce is thick and unctuous. Taste and adjust seasoning.
While the tagine is cooking, scoop out the flesh out of a preserved lemon, chop up the peel. Fry the almonds in the oil until almost golden brown. Then add the diced lemon and toss 2 or 3 times. Drain on kitchen paper. Sprinkle preserved lemon, almonds and remaining coriander over the lamb just before serving. Natural yoghurt makes a delicious accompaniment.
Note: No need to serve any vegetable, but a green salad would be a delicious.
The Traditional Option:
Roast Spring Lamb with Roast Spring Onions & Mint Sauce
1 leg of Spring lamb – about 2.7kgs
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
600ml lamb or chicken stock
a little roux (see recipe)
salt and freshly ground pepper
mint sauce (see recipe)
Remove the aitch bone from the top of the leg of lamb or ask your butcher to do it for you. This makes it so much easier to carve later, then saw off the knuckle from the end of the leg. Season the skin with salt and freshly ground pepper. Transfer into a roasting tin.
Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas 4. Roast for 1- 1¼ hours approx: For rare, 1¼ – 1½ hours for medium and 1½ – 1¾ hours for well done, depending on size. When the lamb is cooked to your taste, remove the joint to a hot carving dish.
Rest the lamb in a low oven at 50-100°C for 10 minutes before carving.
Meanwhile make the gravy. Degrease the meat juices in the roasting tin (* see note), add the stock. Bring to the boil and whisk in a little roux, just enough to thicken slightly. Taste and allow to bubble until the flavour is rich enough. Correct the seasoning and serve hot with the lamb, roast spring vegetables and lots of crusty roast potatoes.
Fresh Mint Sauce
Traditional Mint Sauce made with tender young shoots of fresh mint takes only minutes to make. It’s the perfect accompaniment to spring lamb but for those who are expecting a bright green jelly, the slightly dull colour and watery texture comes as a surprise. That’s how it is meant to be, try it.
25g finely chopped fresh mint
2 tablespoons sugar
110ml boiling water
25ml white wine vinegar or freshly squeezed lemon juice
Put the sugar and freshly-chopped mint into a sauce boat. Add the boiling water and vinegar or lemon juice. Allow to infuse for 5-10 minutes before serving.
Melt the butter and cook the flour in it for 2 minutes on a low heat, stirring occasionally. Use as required. Roux can be stored in a cool place and used as required or it can be made up on the spot if preferred. It will keep at least a fortnight in a refrigerator.
How Do I Degrease the Juices?
The gravy should be made in the roasting tin because that is where the flavour is. Usually there is not a great deal of juice in the roasting pan, there will be some caramelised meat juices and lamb fat. This is precious because it is the basis of the gravy. Tilt the roasting tin so the fat collects in one corner. Spoon off as much fat as possible. Then pour icy cold stock into the roasting tin, this will cause the last few globules of fat to solidify so they can be quickly skimmed off the top with a perforated spoon. Then continue to make gravy as in the recipe.
Thank you to all at Ballymaloe Cookery School and Cooking Is Fun for allowing us to reproduce your recipes. Happy Easter.